Fungal diversity in ectomycorrhizal communities: sampling effort and species detection
- Cite this article as:
- Taylor, A.F.S. Plant and Soil (2002) 244: 19. doi:10.1023/A:1020279815472
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A number of recent review articles on ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungal community diversity have highlighted the unprecedented increase in the number of publications on this ecologically important but neglected area. The general features of these species-rich, highly dynamic and complex communities have been comprehensively covered but one aspect crucial to our assessment of diversity, namely the sampling of ECM communities has received less attention. This is a complex issue with two principal components, the physical sampling strategy employed and the life cycle traits of the ECM fungi being examined. Combined, these two components provide the image that we perceive as ECM diversity. This contribution will focus primarily on the former of these components using a recent study from a pine forest in central Sweden to highlight some sampling problems and also to discuss some features common to ECM communities. The two commonly used elements of diversity, species richness and community evenness, present rather different problems in the assessment of ECM diversity. The applicability of using current measures of abundance (number or percentage of root tips colonised) to determine community evenness is discussed in relation to our lack of knowledge on the size of individual genets of ECM fungi. The inherent structure of most ECM communities, with a few common species and a large number of rare species, severely limits our ability to accurately assess species richness. A discussion of theoretical detection limits is included that demonstrates the importance of the sampling effort (no. of samples or tips) involved in assessing species richness. Species area abundance plots are also discussed in this context. It is suggested that sampling strategy (bulk samples versus multiple collections of single tips) may have important consequences when sampling from communities where root tip densities differ. Finally, the need for studies of the spatial distribution of ECM on roots in relation to small-scale soil heterogeneity and of the temporal aspects of ECM community dynamics is raised.